CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A wildfire that has charred more than one square mile of the Monongahela National Forest in the Smoke Hole section of Pendleton County since it broke out on Sunday continued to blaze on Tuesday, despite efforts by firefighters from four states.
U.S. Forest Service incident team spokesman Robert Beanblossom said early Tuesday that the Smoke Hole blaze was about 20 percent contained, after having damaged nearly 730 acres.
"Fire crews put in a fire line yesterday and have made real good progress on the south side of the fire," Beanblossom said. "Today, other crews will work on the western and northern flanks."
While snow preceded by rain blanketed much of the state by Tuesday morning, no significant precipitation had reached the fire site, located about three miles northwest of Upper Tract.
"The Smoke Hole area lies in kind of a rain shadow," Beanblossom said. "There's a 60 percent chance of precipitation in the forecast for today, tapering off to 30 percent tonight, but things are still dry right now."
The fire, which broke out on private land adjacent to the national forest, was first reported shortly after noon on Sunday, and grew through Sunday night, despite quick response efforts by the Franklin, Seneca Rocks and Upper Tract volunteer fire departments and Forest Service fire crews.
Beanblossom said the fire was burning mainly on Forest Service land on North Fork Mountain. Forest Road 79 is closed to the public because of safety concerns, as is the scenic North Fork Mountain Trail, now off-limits to hikers from its trailhead off U.S. 33 northward to its intersection with the Redman Run Trail.
The Forest Service has assigned 35 interagency firefighters and two fire engines to the fire, aided by firefighters from the Petersburg, Franklin, Seneca Rocks and Upper Tract VFDs. Additional interagency fire-suppression crews from Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee, totaling about 80 people, were expected to be on the scene today, along with four additional fire engines.
So far, the fire has damaged no structures, although farms and camps are in the vicinity of the blaze. On Monday, one person involved with the firefighting effort suffered a broken arm.
Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelham...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.